Tiny Skillet has chosen pumpkin chocolate chip squares for next week.
I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent engrossed in this huge volume: Martha’s Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations. The first 300 or so pages are just photos, with brief explanations, of Martha’s parties (you’ll find recipes in the last 100 pages). You’ll see inside her various homes, and the grounds of those homes. The MSLO cast of characters is present at many parties, but so are some of Martha’s friends and families. There are parties for everything you can imagine: tea, July 4th, breakfast on the porch, dinner in the clerestory, celebrating a master gardener, Christmas, Easter, spring dinner, and even a picnic at sea. Martha likes to party apparently!
I enjoyed this because it was just so completely over the top. This isn’t a book you pick up and think, “Ok, I’ll do that for the party I’m having next weekend.” Certainly it’s inspirational, and you’ll find loads of great ideas for decorations and food (not to mention the china, silver, and crystal that all looks so lovely), but few people are going to be able to replicate most of this. That being said, it is just a fun book to read through, particularly if you want to catch a glimpse inside Martha’s life or if you just love good photos of food and decor. There are many ideas here that can be toned down to work for the average person. I loved the Peony Garden Party and would love to incorporate some of those ideas to a gathering at my home.
The recipes are mostly very high yield (30+ people) although there are some that are smaller. The recipes are delicious sounding, but honestly there aren’t too many I felt compelled to try. I probably won’t be making Mini Crab Papapadams, Terrine of Duck Breast and Leg Confit, or Orange Easter Cake with Tiny Meringue Nests any time soon. That doesn’t matter though because this is a book about fantasies – the parties you would give if you had a catering staff on hand and Kevin Sharkey on retainer.
I truly enjoyed this book (which I borrowed from the library), but won’t be plunking down $75 to own it. It’s definitely fun to poke around in and ooh and aah at the gorgeous photos, the decadent food, and Martha’s incredible lifestyle.
I have an opinion piece up in the Soapbox section of Zester today you might be interested in reading – it talks about how my Martha project led me to write my cookbook.
Pru at Perfecting Pru chose today’s project – potato gratin in a muffin tin. Did you try it? I made it and it worked but I thought it was a bit lacking in flavor. There’s no butter in this, other than the cooking spray on the tin (maybe I should have actually rubbed a stick of butter on it). Easy to make, but those muffin tins are a pain to clean if you don’t use liners, and this recipe didn’t. I can safely tell you, having cooked hundreds of muffin tin recipes, for my upcoming book The Muffin Tin Cookbook, that you want to use liners whenever possible!
Have you tried yogurt cheese? I actually made Martha’s version of yogurt cheese a while ago, and it was a disaster. That didn’t stop me from buying some in the deli department when I found this organic version. I really, really like it. And you get the added benefit of probiotics from it. It’s a little tangy, but not so that your kids wouldn’t eat it. Let them think it is white American and no one will know.
We first enjoyed sweet potato muffins when we were in Colonial Williamsburg, where we stopped for a weekend before we headed to Hilton Head for a family vacation several years ago. We had a great time, except for how dang hot it was. I ended up buying a giant straw hat just to stop the sun from burning my face, shoulders and neck (even with sunscreen on). My husband bought a refillable mug and kept getting it reloaded with root beer to stay cool.
We love living history museums and this was a great one, except there was a LOT of walking, which is not so much fun with kids in the heat. We spent two days here and saw a witch trial, took a ghost tour, explored the governor’s palace and visited many working period shops in the “town” and petted some farm animals. My daughter declared that Patrick Henry was her hottie after passing him on the street where he was proclaiming “give me liberty or give me death.”. She came home with a tricorn hat to remember the experience.
We stayed at the Williamsburg Woodlands hotel in a nice little two room suite, which was like a lovely little Poconos-type resort with a game room, a mini golf course in the woods, and lots of green space. One night we dined at Christiana Campbell’s Tavern, a tavern George Washington often visited. This is where we had the muffins, and all of us enjoyed them immensely. After we came home, I hunted down a recipe and found it online somewhere (the tavern used to hand out the recipe to diners). I do this a lot when we travel – enjoy something and come home to learn how to make it myself.
I have tweaked the recipe a bit over the years and it remains a family favorite, perfect for fall, and for Thanksgiving! Serve with honey butter.
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 stick of butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cooked mashed sweet potatoes/yams (about one yam)
1/2 cup skim milk
optional: 1/2 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray 12 regular size muffin tins with cooking spray (I use silicone tins). Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add in eggs, yam, and milk and mix completely. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and spices and mix until completely combined. If using pecans, stir them in. Divide among muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.
Mix 1 tablespoon honey with 4 tablespoons butter in a food processor. You can also use maple syrup instead of honey.